Neil Barrett is a realist. He never shows anything on his catwalk you couldn't imagine a man wearing as is, albeit a man with less meat on his bones than the proverbial plucked poultry. What is often missing from his shows, however, is the all-important factor of lust. I'm not talking sex, either - but that gut instinct that what you're seeing is exactly what you want to wear right here and right now.
For spring 2012, however, Barrett managed to hit that note. It wasn't consistent, but it was persistent. Maybe it was because Barrett's offering this season seemed especially true to his own style: minimal often to the point of severity, cut with fearsome precision, a touch of utility detail, and plenty of restraint. It's a pity Barrett didn't restrain his stylist - toilet-chain key-fobs dangling at the hip on every look seemed messy, and the half-dozen womenswear looks peppering the collection like novelty buckshot only confused his message.
The message this time was youth. That's the oldest message in the book, ironically, but Barrett managed to inject it with some fresh life. There was a touch of ska in houndstooth and Prince of Wales monochrome checks, a bit of demob in some military nylon jackets bristling with zippered pocked, a touch of rocker in Perfecto detailing, not only on biker jackets true but cross-bred with rainmacs, pea-coats and tailored suits. Those kind of tricks has been experimented with many a time before - last spring's Burberry Prorsum collection for a start - so Barrett deserves all the credit that his looked interesting and different, alongside most of this sleek, streamlined showing. As for that lust-factor? Try a sleeveless khaki trench that looked as if it had been sliced with a razor, flood-length tweed trousers with a touch of volume at the hip, and every pair of shoes that romper-stomped out, a must-have chopped-out mash-up of gladiator sandal and Doc Marten.